E-TEN Glofiish M800

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • quad-band GSM, GPRS/EDGE, 3G/HSDPA
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS
  • Business card scanner
  • Many useful extra applications

Cons

  • Touch-sensitive front panel control buttons are very irritating
  • Sluggish performance at times
  • Relatively bulky and heavy

E-TEN, which has recently been acquired by Acer, launches a steady stream of handhelds under its Glofiish label. Recent models we have examined include the X800 and the M700. The Glofiish M800 is an update of the M700, and comes complete with slide-out keyboard. It's jam-packed with features, but we do have one serious problem with the hardware design.

Design
At 178g, the Glofiish M800 is quite a heavy device — it's certainly much more noticeable in the pocket than smartphones and handhelds that weigh closer to 100g. It measures a handy 58mm wide, but is otherwise somewhat bulkier than you might expect a small-format Windows Mobile handheld to be, at 114mm tall and 18mm thick. This is because there's an awful lot of hardware packed into this device, including a small QWERTY keyboard.

The keyboard slides out from the left edge. It lacks a dedicated number row, although numbers are embedded in a phone-style arrangement on some of the QWERTY keys. The keyboard is flat, with minimal gaps between the keys, and we found it a little harder to use at speed than the keyboard of HTC’s TyTN II (whose keys are also contiguous but individually raised to help with differentiation).

On the front of the device, below the screen, is the usual array of buttons for a Windows Mobile Professional device: for starting and ending voice calls, for using the Windows Mobile softmenus, for accessing the Today screen and for quick-launching applications.

These buttons are touch sensitive, and they are not to our liking. They lack tactile feedback, and it's not always clear that you've hit the selected button successfully. Finding the right button is not always easy because they are marked out by pale white icons against the slate-grey casing, and only backlit (orange) when one is touched. In poorly lit environments we found this particularly annoying. Furthermore, it's all too easy to hit a button by mistake when handling the Glofiish M800: with no discernable way of locking the touch buttons down, this is likely to become a serious irritation.

Sitting in the centre of the touch buttons is a mini-joystick for navigating around the screen that's small and rather fiddly to use.

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The screen measures 2.8in. from corner to corner and has a full VGA resolution (640 by 480 pixels). This is quite rare for Windows Mobile devices, which tend to be 320 by 240, and the extra pixels help to deliver excellent image quality. E-TEN’s preferred orange and yellow colour scheme may not appeal to all, but you can always select something else.

Various side-mounted buttons provide access to volume control, the built-in 2-megapixel camera and voice recording, while a stylus sits in a housing on the bottom-right of the casing at the back. It's rather light and flimsy, although not espeically so.

The M800's grey colour scheme is muted enough for professional users, while the band of bronze running all the way around the edge adds a touch of colour.

The Glofiish M800 ships with a USB sync cable, an AC adapter, a stereo headset, a rather chunky but very solid case with belt clip, a getting started CD and a printed quick-start guide.

Features
The Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional-based Golfiish M800 uses a Samsung S3C2442 processor running at 500MHz. Although this is a well-specified CPU, we found that our review sample was not always quick to respond to requests. However, this could be because our sample was not quite a final boxed unit.

The Glofiish M800 comes with 256MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM. After a hard reset, our review sample reported 146MB of available storage capacity. You can augment this with microSD cards: the slot is on the bottom edge of the device,  protected by a rubber cover. The slot is difficult to access when either the mains power or the PC sync cable is in the mini-USB port, as the cable obscures the hinged rubber cover. The hinge would be better placed on the opposite side.

Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) are both integrated, along with a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA connectivity. There's a front-facing camera for video calling; the main camera, on the back of the casing, has a small self-portrait mirror and a powerful LED flash.

The main camera is a 2-megapixel autofocus unit that shoots stills at resolutions up to 1600 by 1200 pixels. The camera also works with E-TEN-supplied software to provide business card scanning functionality. This is remarkably easy to use and very effective. You take a photo of a business card and then use the software to convert its contents into editable text, which is slotted into appropriate fields. From there you can make any necessary corrections and import the information into Windows Mobile's Contacts database. It all worked remarkably well in our tests, even with brightly coloured cards.

The Glofiish M800 also has an integrated SiRFstar III GPS receiver. To make the best use of this you'll need to add navigation software, but E-TEN does include an application we've seen before, called Location SMS, which allows you to send a GPS fix (latitude and longitude) as part of a text message.

An FM radio augments the standard media playback. To use it, you need to insert the stereo headset as this contains the radio antenna. Unfortunately the provided headset is a one-piece unit, so you can’t substitute a better-quality one should you wish. Nor can you play the radio through the device's built-in speaker. Other preinstalled applications include an alternative to the Windows Mobile Today screen, a backup utility, speed-dial utilities and a block-and-allow list for calls. In addition, by tapping the Home key you can access a 3x3 grid of applications and settings among whose options is the ability to switch the display between landscape and portrait orientations, use the camera flash as a torch and switch profiles.

Performance & battery life
Apart from intermittent sluggishness (which may well be fixed in production models), the Glofiish M800 performed well. The device is crammed with features and applications and there's plenty of scope for adding more software both internally and via a microSD card.

E-TEN rates the 1,530mAh lithium polymer battery for 3.5 to 4 hours of talk, 120 to 150 hours on standby, 10 to 15 hours of Pocket PC usage and 2.5 to 5 hours GPS usage. In our own battery test, we asked the device to play music continuously from a microSD card after first fully charging the battery, and forcing the screen to stay on throughout. The device managed a total of 6.5 hours of music, which is reasonably good — although we have seen better.

Conclusion
We are impressed with the range of functions and capabilities E-TEN has built into the Glofiish M800. However, the touch-sensitive buttons on the front are a serious design error, as they interfere with usability to the point of annoyance.


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